Major renovation of historic city centre buildings gathers pace with opening of hairdressing salon

The renovation of Sunderland city centre’s Hutchinson’s Buildings is gathering pace with the opening of a hairdressing salon in one of its prime units.

Saturday, 17th October 2020, 7:00 am

The Hutchinson’s Buildings, a landmark building which has watched over the city centre since Victorian times, has had many guises over the years, most famously housing Mackie’s Corner.

In later years, the buildings housed city institutions such as Chambers nightclub, but had been empty until they were bought by city property developer Henry Kirtley and daughter Alex.

The pair are renovating the Grade II-listed buildings in High Street West to bring them back to their former glory and to house city businesses as part of the wider Historic High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ).

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New life is being breathed into the old Hutchinson's Buildings

The site’s latest tenant is Black Door Hairdressing, who’ve been successfully operating in Grange Terrace for the past eight years. It follows Bou-Chique who’ve also opened on the ground floor, with another eight businesses who’ve signed leases to be announced.

Owner and salon director Tori Haig-Scott had been looking for larger premises, and the former Retox bar was the perfect place to expand her business, which incorporates hairdressing as well as beauty treatment rooms. It was also once the bar beneath Chambers and shared an entrance with the much-loved ‘90s club.

"People have so many memories of the buildings, whether it’s from the pubs or as Mackie’s Corner, I have one client who’s 95 who remembers it as that,” explained Tori.

The move – which so far has 15 people working in the business, with space still available for a hairdresser, nail expert and fillers clinic – has proved popular with appointments fully booked until January.

The Black Door director Tori Haig Scott has opened the new salon in Hutchinson Buildings in Mackie's Corner.

Tori’s kept as many of the original features as possible, whilst also creating a salon with a New York loft apartment aesthetic.

She said: "I’d previously looked at one of the other units, it had great views of Fawcett Street, but it was split over three floors. Then this one became available and it’s perfect, it’s a huge space but it’s also on one floor so it’s wheelchair and pushchair accessible. Because it’s so big people feel safe here. We all wear PPE, sanitise and have screens, but the space means the stations aren’t too close together.

"It’s difficult because we couldn’t trade for four months and all the appointments when we reopened were colour corrections because people had been using box dyes in lockdown. They’re really long appointments, but we didn’t want to charge them more.”

Speaking about how business has been affected by the pandemic, she said: "The times in between clients now are longer because you have to allow time for sanitising, so we can’t have as many appointments in a day. As a result, many salons have started charging more and I completely understand why, but we didn’t feel comfortable doing that. We do a price increase of a pound every April and we’ve stuck to that.

The unit has been a number of different bars over the years including Retox

"I see this building as a creative space for everyone to work underneath, whether employed or self-employed.”

Once renovation works are complete, the buildings can house around 35 businesses.

Site owner Alex Kirtley said: “Tori’s was a benchmark business we really wanted for the buildings. They are very creative people and a perfect fit, it’s been great working with Tori on the fit out because she shared our vision for the unit. All the ground floor would have once housed high end fashion shops for Sunderland so it echoes the past.”

Mackie's Corner in March 1953

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The Black Door director Tori Haig Scott in front of her business in High Street West
Inside The Black Door salon which has opened in Hutchinson's Buildings in High Street West
The Black Door director Tori Haig Scott with some of the 15 hairdressers and beauty experts who work at the business
Stations are divided by protective screens
The salon has a New York loft style aesthetic
The site in its nightclubs days
Hutchinson's Buildings in 1939